Chapter 8: Getting Ready

“Oh my!  I can’t believe my big ears!  What’s this – we’re going to Ecuador!  Haven’t seen Nilla so I’m not sure she even knows this – but she probably does.”

The printer has been busy – color copies of passports, copies of medical history, updating vaccination histories (MMR, Tdap, influenza, Hepatitis A, Hepatitis B), copes of emergency instructions and contacts.

From overheard conversations between my, oops, I mean our people, we’ll be staying at a rental property in the small fishing village, Crucita.  The property is in a gated community with 24/7 security.  Three bedrooms, three and a half baths, top deck overlooking the Pacific Ocean what more could we ask for?  Lots of questions – Drinking water, beach umbrella, reliable internet, nearby shopping, local gym, trash collection, housekeeping services, nearby ATM, grill – to name a few.  Russel, our host will hopefully provide the answers soon via email.

Saying good bye to the buddies.



Travel time! I’ll tell you all about it when we return!




“It must be getting close to travel time.  I can’t wait to get going.  I’ve seen reminder notes, ‘must pack lists’ and ‘to-do’ lists.  This Ecuador trip is more complicated than any other I remember”, Nilla remarks. “You do know that we’re going to Aruba too, don’t you?”

“Back to Aruba and the iguanas?  Aruba is nice but the iguanas looked as us as though we were lunch when we were sitting out by the pool.”

“For a creature with big ears you don’t seem to hear much!  We’ll be just fine, our people will keep us safe!  And Jackson, can’t we call our people, our caregiver owners, our guardians, our trustees by some other name?”

“I know let’s call them ‘The Ts’, short for trustees.  What do you think Nilla, sounds pretty good to me!”

“Okay, it’s ‘The Ts’ from now on, good thinking Jackson.”

“You should know that Russel called a couple of days ago and spoke with The Ts.  I overheard some of the conversation – he sounds nice.  Apparently the property manager only speaks Spanish, shouldn’t be a major problem – I’m sure we will figure out some way to communicate.”

Good thing Nilla and I travel light – the guardians have a suitcase limit of 50 pounds and the carry-on size is limited to 22 x 19 x 9 inches, including handle and wheels.  I’m sure Nilla and I will be in the ‘personal item’ pockets and definitely won’t be a problem.


“What’s a ‘Nook’?” Nilla asks

“That’s the literature device loaded with reading material, it’s been available for years” I answer.

“What happened to real books, you know, the ones with pages, earmarks and all?”

“Nooks are more convenient and weight less and actually have several functions beyond storage of electronic books.” I explain.

“I know, ‘Nook’ means ‘n’ot a book, ha, ha, ha!” Nilla sarcastically responds.

“So you think you’re really funny, well let me tell you, your name in Spanish is pronounced Në-ya.”

“And how is your name pronounced then?”

“The same way, of course!”

“Sure you really don’t know, do you?”

“We’ll just have to wait and see, then!”

Chapter 7: Retirement

April 30th, 2018 is quickly upon us.  The word ‘retirement’ is a misnomer – at least it should be defined as an individual creative process with unpredictable adventures.  Jackson learns that he will be leaving the office soon and is really worried that he will return to boredom.

His office departure is stressful.  Shared tears and hugs; songs and chants fill the afternoon.  So many memories, so honored to have been a part of the community mission.

Jackson reminds all that “a person is a person, no matter how small”!

Into the backpack for the last time.  Jackson looks forward to seeing Nilla again and continues to hope that he will be able to travel with her very soon.

Once home he hopes that he won’t have to hang out the bears.  “I don’t have much in common with them.”

Much to his delight he is not united with Nilla but introduced to a new space!  “Looks like a little office!  A printer/fax machine, lots of paper and even a filing cabinet!  This might not be so bad after all!  And wow, other fuzzy creatures atop the filing cabinet – time to meet new friends!”



Great company and fantastic stories!

Chapter 6: Aruba

In December 2017 yet another warm get away, this time to Aruba.  We had a brief visit to the island on April 6th earlier this year while cruising on the Adventure of the Seas.  Three weeks in Aruba with the hope of finding a reasonable apartment to rent for three months next winter.


Now this is much better than being stuffed into the carry on under the seat.  Make sure you read the safety information and keep in mind the closest exit may be behind you!


Beverage service.  Wow.  Important to hydrate!



La Cabana hasn’t changed much since April, and Rose is glad to see us.



Because we’re here for an three-week stay we have fun exploring Oranjestad shopping and having fun with the blue horses.  The eight blue horses are a tribute to Paarden Baai, Horses Bay, and the contribution of the horse to the European-Aruban trade.  The horses were brought from Europe and once anchored off shore, had to jump from the ship’s deck and swim ashore. The horses represent strengths – Nobility, Grace, Freedom and Beauty.  Nilla wants to be a ‘horse whisperer’.


Shopping is boring but Nilla loves to look at ‘bling’!

Hanging out poolside might be dangerous.  An iguana checks us out as if considering a snack.  Things are safer down at the beach!

Grocery shopping and making new friends with the staff and security.


Three weeks pass by quickly and Christmas approaches.  Looks as though the retirement budget will not support the expense an extended stay in Aruba next winter.  The guardians will have to explore alternatives.

Time to return home and share this adventures with the other at home.   The airport is decorated for the holidays, we fit right in!


Back home and debriefing with the others.  Jackson really wants to get back to the office and catch up on things there.  Looking forward to the next adventure, wherever that may be!



Chapter Five: The Eclipse

Multiple astrological events contribute to two thousand and seventeen being an exciting astrological year. Our observation of the Quadrantids Meteor Shower on January 3rd and 4th, known for its exceptional color, blue from the high magnesium content, is alas, obscured because of cloudy weather.  Clear skies on January 31st, Mars and Venus formed a cosmic triangle with the moon – a spectacular delight.  On August 11th once again cloudy conditions interfere with viewing of the Perseids Meteor Shower.

Nilla and Jackson have yet to learn about the Great American Solar Eclipse even though plans were set in motion in December 2016.  The rare total solar eclipse being a once in a lifetime event, the last solar eclipse traversing the continental United States occurred on June 8th 1918 – nearly one hundred years ago – and not to occur again until 2024.  This 2017 remarkable eclipse is to begin on the Pacific coast, traveling through the center of the United States to the South Carolina coast.

“Should we take ‘the kids’?

“Why not?”

“I’m not sure the special glasses come in their sizes.”

“You’re crafty, you can make some.”

Nilla is so excited.  Does Jackson know about this?  Surely he must have heard something about this in the office!

Jackson, enjoying the eclipse chit chat in the office, and something about a ‘bucket list’ can’t believe his big ears!! A solar eclipse medallion affixed around his neck, is appropriate attire for such a marvelous event.

“I feel sooo privileged! I can hardly wait!”


Does Nilla know about this? he wonders.  Surely she must – she seems to know everything about our guardians’ travels.

On August 19th Jackson leaves instructions to the office staff and hops again into the orange back pack.

Nilla is waiting for Jackson’s arrival, she too has a medallion around her neck.

Jackson is very impressed with the United States Postal Service’s first ever thermochromic stamp released on June 20th, dedicated to this marvelous event.  The stamp uses special thermochromic ink developed by Chromatic Technologies Inc. in Colorado Springs and features photographs courtesy of astrophysicist and solar eclipse chaser, Fred Espenak.  Art director Antonio Alcala designed the stamp that when heat activated the color changing ink will fade revealing a moon over the blotted-out sun.  The first-day issue ceremony occurs on June 21st at the University of Wyoming in Laramie.


“What are these things”? Jackson asks Nilla, assuming she has heard about this through conversations at home.


“Oh, these are special glasses – to keep our eyes safe while we look at the eclipse.” Nilla tells him.

“Do you know where we’re going?”

“Goodletsville, Tennessee.  There’s been a problem with the reservation at the Hampton Inn though – lost the reservation when it was sold to Travel Lodge.  We have reservations now at the Bucksnort Inn and Truck Stop – everything else is sold out!!!”

“Sounds a bit creepy to me!” Jackson replies.

“There maybe a chance that we’ll stay in White House, Tennessee though – arrangements in progress through Airbnb.”

“That would be an improvement, I’m sure.” Jackson sighs.

On August 20th, off to the airport and smooth flight to Nashville.


Lines and lines.  Nilla and Jackson take the opportunity to people watch while waiting for the rental car.  Good thing we have a reservation – gouging prices for those just walking up to the counter.


“Hey, maybe we can get TSA Pre-Check? What do you think Nilla?”


“Nope, no one is in the office – too bad!”

Time to explore Goodlettsville – lots of photo opportunities here – hanging around the Moss-Wright Park, or rocking at the town hall.



Our hosts, Christy Hooper and her husband Bill aren’t home but leave a key for us.  Time to settle in and rest for the big day tomorrow.


August 21st – the day has finally arrived.  Will the weather cooperate?

People at the park are so friendly and welcoming – and give our guardians more special glasses.  It’s a sunny day – just a few clouds – and verry warm!


Nice music fills the park which is not crowded at all.

As the eclipse begins a silence falls on the park – piano playing in a distance – time to put on the glasses.  Attempts to take pictures of the actual eclipse are not possible using a regular camera without special filters – so we lie back and enjoy the phenomenal display.  It never gets totally dark even during the total eclipse, lasting about two and a half minutes.


So spiritual and unforgettable!!  Back home, others have taken photos of the partial eclipse with special camera lens adapters.  Still, even though partial, a remarkable event.  The total solar eclipse of April 6th, 2024 may rival this one.  It will start on the east coast in Maine and travel across the country to Texas. The geographic area in Maine where totality is to occur is very rural.  Will we be fortunate enough to see a second total eclipse?

Chapter 4: Flying and Cruising

“Don’t worry Jackson, they’ll put us through a machine just to make sure we’re not dangerous – it doesn’t hurt.  The two legs (aka people) have to go through a larger machine and some even receive the ‘magic wand’ treatment too.”  I am thankful for Nilla’s travel savvy.

Flying is pretty boring – tucked away in the pocket of the soft-sided carry on.

Nilla was right yet again –  getting away to warmer weather the end of March and the beginning of April, after a cold icy New England winter, takes care of the shivers.  The cruise on the Adventure of the Seas with Royal Caribbean is a lot of fun, the evening animals appearing every night, absolutely fantastic.  Ten days enjoying the western Caribbean.  We would have enjoyed getting to know them better.  Our stateroom, number 6688,  aft ship, is comfy with a large covered balcony with lots of opportunity to enjoy the sunny weather.  We don’t disembark ship with our guardians at any of the ports with the exception of Oranjestad when we go to La Cabana with a gift for Rose.  We overhear conversations about plans to stay at the resort in December – that will be fun.


The cabin attendant treats us royally and the photo staff adores us.  We went all over the ship and even went to the dinning room.  One night our guardians didn’t take us to dinner and, according to what is said in the cabin upon their return, folks disappointed at not seeing us –  at that point the staff and fellow passengers referring to as ‘the kids’.  Dinner in the dining room every night thereafter – the wait staff even sings to us, O Solo Mio!!

Nillla and I really love Annabelle, she makes everything just perfect in the dinning room. She even let us sit at the captain’s table – he wasn’t seated yet of course!


Nilla and Jackson at the Captains Table.
“Can I be of assistance?”  We feel sooo important!
Introduction to the officers on board – the hotel director and food and beverage director – neither sure they know what to do with us.
Windjammer service.  Don’t forget to sanitize your hands (paws)
Table 18 first seating.  Nitesh our waiter and Ezra the assistant waiter.  Elvis in charge of beverages. Rolls are yummy.
One of our animal friends looking cool with the shades.
Tucked in for an early evening!


“Nilla, you don’t know anything about computers!!  Leave that to me!!”
“Nilla, what are you looking at?”
They love us! – We’re so cute!  (They are too!!)
Checking out passengers in the dining room.


Our last evening.  Nilla whispers in my ear, “What do you think about cruising now?”

“I can’t wait until the next one!”

“It only gets better, repeat passengers receive special benefits!”, Nilla informs me.

Once home it’s laundry and mail for our guardians.  Nilla and I don’t have any laundry or mail – so simple.  Nilla is off and debriefing her bear friends and I am heading to the office to catch up on paper work and other matters that have accumulated while away.  We both wonder when we will be taking our next trip.


Chapter Three: Getting Acquainted

I am eyed from the tip of my nose to the tip of my tail, rather rudely I think, by a fuzzy floppy creature who looks unhappy.

“I’m Jackson, the office mouse”, trying to be friendly and explaining that I heard my person is going away and want to find out where ‘away’ is.”

“I’m Nilla the official traveling companion.  Why don’t you know where away is mister smarty office guy?  My people are going cruising on the Adventure of the Seas!”

“Correction, Where our people are going! – remember that!”

“Well, I’m a seasoned traveler – you have a lot to learn if the four of us are to explore the world together”, Nilla adds.  “Pay attention to my advice and you may actually have fun!”

We soon realize the importance of clarifying the’ my’, ‘your’ and ‘our’ in the now entwined lives.

“I’m a good listener, organized and thoughtful, we’ll make a good pair, besides when our guardians go on an excursion and leave us alone, we’ll be good company for one another!”

Travel buddies – glad the awkward introductions are over.

Chapter Two: Jackson

I am essential in creating an organized office space for my person once recruited  in 2014 – up until then my life had been pretty boring.  Large and orange – it is hard for staff to ignore me – much paper in a supposedly ‘paperless’ work place.  When my person leaves the office for a week or so I make sure the staff kept things tidy.  Then in 2017 I learn that my person will be out of the office for a while again, and become curious, so, I sneak into the orange backpack one evening.

At the office


“Now how did you get in there?” my person asks, pulling me out of the backpack .

I end up on the bed in the spare bedroom next to a bunch of clothes.

“Look who’s here!  My person exclaims as a second ‘two legged’ enters the room.  “Somehow he got into the backpack.  Should we take him with us?”

“Sure, but I’m not sure Nilla won’t mind, we’ll have to introduce them.”

“Who’s Nilla, another orange mouse?” I wonder.

Then in short notice you end up on the bed next to me.

Chapter One: Nilla

It came to pass shortly after flights resumed in 2001 that my people, on a business trip to California, stay an extra day to enjoy the west coast weather.  While walking around Solvang and window shopping they spot me.

“Pick me, pick me” I shout inaudibly – my people don’t speak ‘teddy bear’.  I hope they won’t pick my cousin who is tucked on the shelf next to me along with other fuzzy creatures.

“Ah, Nilla is sooo cute!”

“You’re traveling so much, and with the apprehension of flying, Nilla would be a good companion for you!” the other responded.

Little did I know that I will travel across country many times and even go on several cruises to the warm Caribbean (especially great because the cabin attendant introduces me to new towel friends every night). When out and about people hug me, pose for photos with me – so much fun!  I love the attention and delight in sharing stories I tell my fellow bears, home on the dresser.


My competition enters our lives (my people and me) sometime in 2017 – here’s what he tells me…..